Oscars 2020: Best Director Predictions

March 4, 2019
9 min read

Predicting Oscar winners for the next year, and that too this early on, right as we bid farewell to the last season that turned to be an overall disappointing affair for me, might seem like a bit of indulgent, futile practice. However, this year’s results, as unexpected as they were with ‘Roma’ having to contend only with Best Foreign Film, and ‘Green Book’ picking up the golden statuette is testament enough to the fact that even the most calculated predictions and intelligible guesses can prove to take a U-turn when it comes to the final wines at Oscars and its jury. I am guessing that is what makes the entire process endearing, and therefore makes credible sense starting this early on.

In any case, this list is predictive by its innate nature. This is in no way even an exhaustive list of nominees for the Best Director Category, the coveted title going home to Alfonso Cuarón this year, since we are in no way soothsayers. What this might be construed as, however, is a certain list of films and directors to look out for in the coming year, and given their past films, the hype and subject matter with respect to the current film, and the cast that they have assembled, these are but intelligible assumptions. If you are a cinephile and have been even remotely following the works of one or more of these directors, you surely have reason to rejoice for their slate of upcoming films looks truly incredible. Read on.. here’s the list of best director contenders for Oscars 2020.

10. John Crowley, ‘The Goldfinch’

If you observe the season in which most Oscar contenders (and winners) release, it is easy enough to target it and realise why makers eye that window for release. Conversely, it also lets out which movies are being touted for Academy frontrunners, with a lot of major film festivals happening around that time too, that window being the months of October to November. The very fact becomes more evident as you observe the release dates of most other films in this list. Now back to predicting.

John Crowley’s last notable directorial venture was the fabulous ‘Brooklyn’, and while that film was able to generate sufficient hype for itself, Crowley missed out on a nomination for himself. Looking at the other seasoned directors on the list, Crowley may seem younger, but greater feats have shook the Academy before this, and going by the subject matter of his latest film, ‘Goldfinch’, a nomination is most likely if he is able to showcase a similar kind of sensitivity as he did with ‘Brooklyn’.

9. Steven Soderbergh, ‘The Laundromat’

The Panama papers have been in the news for quite some time now, and apart from his other critically acclaimed production this year, ‘The Report’, ‘The Laundromat’, also being directed by Steven Soderbergh — who returns to directing following a brief hiatus — aims to uncover the very heart of the tax evasion scandal that took the world by storm upon revelation. Another one of the projects bankrolled by Netflix as part of its slate of films being touted as serious Oscar contenders, Steven Soderbergh stands a fair chance of being nominated if the film performs well.

8. Scott Z. Burns, ‘The Report’

The Academy and history have both been kind to first time directors with exceptionally good films, and Burns, primarily a screenwriter and frequent collaborator with Steven Soderbergh, might just be the next example of that. His feature film debut as director, ‘The Report’, Prime Video’s big ticket window to the Academy Awards, seems carefully structured to sure-footedly appeal to the Academy voters, with its politically charged subject matter. The film opened to rave reviews at the Sundance Festival, and if everything checks out, our prophecy may just turn out to be true.

6. Jay Roach, ‘Fair and Balanced’

Jay Roach quickly made his name known across the scene with ‘Trumbo’ in 2015, and while he may not be the first name to come to your mind when it comes to best director nominations, the next film that he directs is very much in the interjectory of what is considered potential Oscar material. ‘Fair and Balanced’ is the story of several news anchors with the Fox network and their run-ins with the founder of the news network, Roger Ailes, who had multiple counts of sexual harassment against him and was forced to resign on their account. Although the #metoo movement gripped the world like a storm, there still is to be a film that can be definitive of the movement. Starring strong female actors including Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, Allison Janney, and Kate McKinnon, looks like this might be it, and along with a socially relevant film, a nod for Roach as best Director perhaps?

6. Marielle Heller, ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’

Marielle Heller missed an Oscar nomination for another overlooked film at the Oscars this year, ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’. However, she returns this year with ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood’, a look at the lives touched by television icon Fred Rogers in a biography of sorts of the celebrated personality. While last year’s documentary ‘Won’t You be My Neighbour’ shed light on the positive life of Rogers, Heller attempts the same but from a third person, journalistic perspective. Plus, the casting of the extremely likeable Tom Hanks in the role is a definitive win-win for everybody involved.

5. Greta Gerwig, ‘Little Women’

Greta Gerwig demonstrated what a formidable talent she is with her stellar directorial debut, ‘Ladybird’, also one of my favourite films from 2017. Her next film, ‘Little Women’, the eighth adaptation of the 1868 novel and stars her ‘Ladybird’ star Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh and Eliza Scanlen (who I happened to absolutely love in last year’s ‘Sharp Objects’), along with Timothée Chalamet. Two important notes here. The first: If ‘Ladybird’ is any indication of her ability in handling female coming of age tales, ‘Little Women’ is comfortable territory for her. The second: the success of ‘A Star is Born’ proved that the world is always ready for new adaptations as long as they are not complete rehashes and have something new to offer, and while that may in itself harm the film’s prospects of winning at the Academy, a nomination is all but guaranteed if it turns out to be a good film.

4. Joe Wright, ‘The Woman in the Window’

Three of the films directed by Joe Wright have been serious Oscar contenders in their respective years, including ‘Atonement’, ‘Anna Karenina’ and ‘Darkest Hour’, and yet still, the immensely talented director hasn’t been able to secure a best director nomination for himself. His next feature film titled ‘The Woman in the Window’ is a psychological thriller, and yet again, while the genre hasn’t been given particular traction in the last few years, something truly groundbreaking like ‘Get Out’ might change that, and get Wright his first nomination. Again, the sizeable cast of well-known faces including Amy Adams as a child psychologist with an anxiety disorder who witnesses a murder next door, spying on her neighbours, rounded up by Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman (reuniting with Wright after his winning turn in ‘Darkest Hour’) and Anthony Mackie is sure to help.

3. Ang Lee, ‘Gemini Man’

The third immensely noteworthy director on this list who is looking to make a comeback this year following his last film, ‘Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’ didn’t quite work out, akin to Scorsese’s ‘Silence’ and Tarantino’s ‘The Hateful Eight’. His current film, ‘Gemini Man’, a sci-fi action thriller, sure puts my hopes up, and is the story of a seasoned assassin looking for a clean exit from the profession, unless he is confronted by his own younger self who now knows each of his moves and tactics in advance. The only lament here is that the Academy in recent times hasn’t shown much traction to sci-fi films or films associated to a single genre, unless historically or socially significant or out and out drama films. But then again, this is Ang Lee we are talking about. The last film he took the Oscar home for was ‘Life of Pi’, and look what a transcendant experience that turned out to be.

2. Quentin Tarantino, ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

Following a 2015 dud in the form of ‘The Hateful Eight’, Tarantino returns with one of the most anticipated films in years, starring an ensemble of possibly two of the most well-known stars across the globe: Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio. Also starring are Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Roman Polanski’s wife, Al Pacino, Bruce Dern, Kurt Russel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Timothy Olyphant and James Marsden, the full Tarantino house. As the title reveals, the film is set in Los Angeles and is the account of a TV actor and his stunt double trying to make it big in Hollywood, complete ofcourse with the signature Tarantino style. However, more than anything, I am interested in witnessing a potential clash of the titans if both Tarantino and Scorsese are nominated. A monumental occasion for sure.

1. Martin Scorsese, ‘The Irishman’

No other director on this list has as impressive, diverse or prolific a filmography as the master right here. It is not even a question why his name is on the list, but a de facto given by now. With the exception of a few years and films, Scorsese has landed the nomination for almost every film he has directed, winning it only once for ‘The Departed’. This year, with ‘The Irishman’, Scorsese returns to familiar territory directing a crime drama with an unprecedented cast including Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Al Pacino and Harvey Keitel. Based on the book ‘I Heard You Paint Houses’ by Charles Brandt, ‘The Irishman’ tells of the disappearance and death of labour union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), as recounted by Frank Sheeran (De Niro). The film was enough to get Pesci out of voluntary retirement and act once again, so safe bets on this one. The good news is, apart from a limited theatrical release, the film will be out on Netflix later this year.

Read More in Oscar Predictions:

Best Picture  Best Actor Best Actress